For many years, the busy port city of Marseille has suffered from a serious image problem. Dismissed for its down-at-heel reputation, urban decay and often alarming crime statistics, it’s long been the black sheep of the Provençal coastline. But while it’s gritty, and not always pretty – Cannes or St-Tropez, it’s not – Marseille is a dynamic, edgy, bustling city that’s rich with more than 1500 years of history. And since its stint as the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and the edition of a brace of swanky new museums, the city has sparkled with a new sense of optimism and self-belief. At long last, everyone seems to be waking up to the fact that France’s second-biggest city might have been unfairly maligned all along.
The heart of the city is the vibrant Vieux Port (old port), mast-to-mast with yachts and pleasure boats. Just uphill is the ancient Le Panier neighbourhood, the oldest section of the city. Also worth an explore is the République quarter, with its swanky boutiques and Haussmannian buildings, and the Joliette area, centre around Marseille’s famous striped Cathédrale de la Major.
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